From Warfare Noise and Speed Metal Hell to W.A.R. and Dark Passages there is no better introduction to an inspired ‘scene’, a fresh new labels mindset, and any resultant stylistic movement than a compilation. Originally used as an imprint for the self-released cassette version of Cauchemar‘s debut album, ‘Tenebrario’ (2013), Temple of Mystery Records would formally become a label in 2016 in the hands of Annick Giroux and François Patry, both of Montréal, Quebec heavy/doom metal band Cauchemar. Though the Québécois heavy metal scene has been kicking hard since the early 80’s a certain renaissance in old school heavy metal cultural revivalists has struck up some serious waves throughout the province and the nation. Here on ‘Trapped Under Ice Vol. I’ Temple of Mystery compiles a dead serious fuck ton of talent with a mix of steady, proven favorites and young wildcards seemingly in the tradition of Priority and Noise Records speed metal compilations of the early 80’s.
This ‘new face’ of Canadian heavy metal presents itself with quality throughout as each band contributes a new or previously unreleased track indicative of their current sound which could range from blackened speed metal, early 80’s style power metal, traditional heavy metal, 70’s influenced heavy rock, and doom metal. Any great compilation comes with representative highlights, not dregs, from each band and it almost feels like Temple of Mystery scored a solid chunk of greatness from each band in the selection. Calgary, Alberta heavy metallers Traveler are among the more hotly anticipated, and newly formed, groups included on Trapped Under Ice as their self-titled full-length approaches release next month. Jean-Pierre Abboud is a force of nature in Gatekeeper and equally impressive in thier Satan-esque power/speed metal song “Betrayer”; Not only is this track a perfect introduction to their sound but it kicks off the full listen with some incredible momentum.
Montreal, Quebec heavy/speed metal quartet Metalian have been around since at least 2005 and “Streets of Fire” flaunts that experience with a ripping handful of Iron Angel-meets-English Dogs riffs, and a bad-ass King Diamond-esque harmony as they duck out. Metalian shares bassists with fellow Montreal crew Cauchemar, are up next with their brand of occult doomed heavy metal on “Comme un Poignard”; If you are a fan of the handful of NWOBHM groups who would dabble with doom, Cauchemar‘s discography is a worthwhile dive thanks to consistently strong songwriting. I was way late to the party with Occult Burial‘s 2016 debut ‘Hideous Obscure’ where they cultivated a sort of psychedelic witching metal sound that doesn’t necessarily go as hard as Nifelheim‘s debut but shrieks and jams a Midnight-ish roll with “Fight For Survival”. This first block of four tracks represents a real best-foot-forward for the compilation and at this point the tracklist had already made its point: Not only are these bands carrying the torch for the old ways of heavy metal but they’re all pretty damn good.
From there Starlight Ritual and Freeways hold the standard high but don’t stand out in this crowd. Barrow Wight can’t help but stand out and this despite their focus on the heavily tread path of Venom worship amidst Tolkien themes, which they’ve nailed for at least a decade now. The main event for my own taste is Vancouver, British Columbia heavy rock band Spell‘s track, the first I’ve heard from the band since 2016’s ‘For None and All’. The Thin Lizzy-esque harmonies and subtle keyboard work of “Silent Towers” is all the more exciting as it feels like a speed metal band performing heavy metal songs, delivering on the promise of that first Ghost album on the level of now defunct In Solitude. I’m hoping this portends the coming of more Spell as “Silent Towers” doesn’t necessarily sound as though it were from previous sessions. Blackrat rules on a similar tier with their blackened punkish speed metal style, “From the Tideless Sea” does feel like a cut track from ‘Dread Reverence’ but even a B-side from this band rips, I love the vocal effects on this track in particular. Though it may not seem like it at first glance but Emblem‘s “Fast Rocker” is another true highlight on this comp with a hard-charging, street-fighting track that breaks into a wild spaced-out Mithras solo at the end; I left this track on repeat for a long while just for that solo.
Apart from a couple of middling songs in the midst of its greatness, this first volume of Temple of Mystery Records‘ Trapped Under Ice compilation is wildly successful as a listening experience and a representation of fine Canadian heavy metal export. I felt like one more track from the wealth of Vancouver’s scene might’ve really hit a home run here but, these are all bands I can fully get behind. The rest of what Temple of Mystery does should be on your radar with phenomenal records from Communion, Chevalier, Pagan Altar, and Outre-Tombe already under their belts; In addition to highly recommending this compilation their small stable of releases comes with equally high praise on my end. For preview if you need just one or two songs that’ll undeniably convince you to listen to them all, I’d say go for the Traveler or Spell tracks first.
Black dragons descending. 4.25/5.0
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